Interview: Kim Ann Foxman, on her own
With a new record and a burgeoning DJ career, the erstwhile Hercules and Love Affair member Kim Ann Foxman hits her stride.
Thu Oct 4 2012
Photograph: Collier Schorr
A longtime friend of bandleader Andy Butler, Kim Ann Foxman is best known as one of the vocalists from synth-disco combo Hercules and Love Affair. But she’s always had an active career of her own, spinning hot house sets at parties in NYC and around the world. A fine new Foxman release, the Return It EP, comes out later this month on the U.K.’s Needwant label; she’ll be celebrating with a deck set at Le Bain on Friday, October 12.
There’s a chapter of your life story that really fascinates me: your 1991 rein as Miss Teen Filipina Hawaii. What was that all about?
Oh, that was traumatizing when it happened! But now I can laugh about it. It was never my goal to win, but I accidently did win.
Weren’t you already a bit of a tomboy by the time you were a teen?
I was extremely a tomboy; that’s why my mom was trying to make me go the opposite way. It was actually my aunt’s idea, but my mom really got hooked on it. I can remember crying because I didn’t want to wear the lipstick—or the evening gown!
Getting a bit more current, I think the first time I really started to become familiar with you was when you were doing the Mad Clams parties at the Hole.
Oh yeah, they were a lot of fun. That was from 2003 to 2005.
Was that your introduction to deejaying in New York City?
Yeah. I was living in San Francisco before I came to New York, but I wasn’t deejaying or throwing parties. I was mainly bartending and going to raves and stuff. I was in a two-man electronic band, and we played out a bit. Then I came to New York, was looking for a job, and ran into a friend who said, “Actually, there might be a night open at the Hole, and you can bartend—but you have to throw a party, too. It would start in two weeks.” I was like, “Oh yeah, I’ll do it.” I wasn’t looking to throw a party or anything; it just kind of happened. And that was Mad Clams.
Andy Butler was deejaying with you at those parties, right?
Exactly, yeah. We would make these theme songs for the party, and then me and a bunch of my friends from that scene would make these weird exercise videos for the party, too. There was a fun one called “Exercise Your Clam.” [Laughs] And people started giving me all these wild exercise videos, too, like from La Toya Jackson and Estelle Getty. It was a fun time.
When Hercules and Love Affair first started getting big, I can remember reading an article that was making the point that everyone involved came into the project in an unplanned, organic sort of way. Did it feel like to you at the time?
Well, I had been with Andy for a long time as a friend, but I never thought I would be on any album or anything. I thought we would just make some stuff, we’d go out and DJ around. I never really had the intention that this would turn into something;so yeah, I guess it was pretty organic and natural. But then all of a sudden, it just spun out of control! It became really crazy, really fast. There was so much hype. I mean, once I knew the album was coming out, I thought it would be received well. But I didn’t even know I was going to be on it! It was a real whirlwind after that.
I can’t even imagine. It must have been mind-blowing, exciting and weird at the same time.
That is all of the things that it was! But I survived.
And now you are done with Hercules and Love Affair, right?
Yeah. There’s a whole new lineup now, and now I’m doing my own thing.
Among your own things, deejaying seems to be a big one. It seems like you are playing a lot nowadays—not just here, but all over the world.
Yeah, that’s true—I’m really traveling a lot. The band definitely gave me a platform to play more internationally. I had been playing around a little bit—I had played some gigs in London and Paris before everything happened—but I definitely wouldn’t have gotten as much attention if it weren’t for that. So I am really grateful. Also, it’s helpful that I actually know how to deejay. [Laughs] As I’m sure you know, there are a lot of people from bands, or personality DJs, who don’t really know how to deejay. And people expected that of me at first, too, so they were surprised in a good way when they would hear me.
You still use records, right?
I do, but I do travel less with them nowadays. I don’t use a computer, though; if I’m traveling, it’s usually with CDs. They’re so easy. And you know what’s really fun? Those USB sticks. It’s really funny to show up to a gig, have somebody ask,“Where’s your stuff?” and just pull this little thing out of your pocket.
Besides the deejaying, you seem to be moving more and more into production. Your last one, “Creature,” was a great song, but this latest one, Return It, is really great.
Thanks! It’s fully written and produced by myself, which is really exciting. But I’m really interested in collaborating with other people. I’m working on a solo album, and that’ll have lots of people on it. I’m also working on some kind of side project, but I don’t have a name for it. It’s not going to be super different just a little more singsongy.
The new EP’s title track features a lot of your vocals as well; it’s a very sweet track. And the flip side, “Hypnotic Dance,” has a bit of an old-school jacking vibe to it. It seems to me that you are very good at combining those two sounds.
True! Good descriptions.
Oh good, I got one right! Do you have to work at that sound, or is it simply an expression of your personality?
I’m sweet and jacking. [Laughs] I don’t know—I think different people just have different sounds. Ever since I’ve been in the electronic world, I’ve been into the jacking stuff, and the sweet stuff, too. And when I’m deejaying, I just play what I like to hear. I’m just trying to keep it personal, you know?
Kim Ann Foxman plays Le Bain on Friday, October 12; Return It (Needwant) is out October 22.